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Apple's iPhone 12 will likely have a new design. Will it be easier to repair? – CNET

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Apple’s known for its obsessive focus on the iPhone’s design.


Angela Land/CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple headquarters.

When Apple’s 5G iPhone 12, or whatever it’s called, gets announced on Tuesday, Oct. 13, during the company’s online-only launch event, industry watchers will be looking closely to see how Apple sells us on 5G wireless, its new chips and cameras, and whatever other new features it might pack in. (Here are all the final iPhone 12 rumors we’ve heard, and the latest major leak.)

But it’s the design that may end up being its most important feature. The new iPhone is expected to shave the device’s curved edges into squares, much like those on the current iPad Pro.

That’ll draw the attention of repair experts around the world, who will rush to YouTube and Twitter once they get hold of the device to start dissecting it down to each seam, screw and cable inside to learn what’s fixable and what isn’t.

“Apple’s the best at everything they do except serviceability,” said Kyle Wiens, head of repair instruction and parts site iFixit, which typically rushes to perform online tear-downs of new Apple devices when they launch. 

People like Wiens highlight an increasingly public debate within the tech industry over form and function. As gadgets from computers to phones get smaller and lighter, people around the tech world are wondering how far this push for slim design will go, and whether it’ll take precedence over being easy to repair. 


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Repair advocates note, for example, that the batteries in Apple’s popular AirPods wireless headphones can’t be replaced without destroying them. “That’s the difference between a product that can last 18 months and what can last 10 years,” Wiens added. But at the same time, the AirPods’ popularity stems in part from how lightweight, small and slick they are — all aspects that would likely be altered by having compartments and connectors for replaceable batteries.

A mockup of what the iPhone 12 may look like, with straight edges on the sides.


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Over the years, Apple’s tipped further toward that consumable end of the spectrum. Its laptops, which once had easily replaceable batteries, are screwed shut with the batteries glued to the case.  Pretty much all its computers other than its $5,999 Mac Pro desktop aren’t designed to be easily opened by non-technical people either.

Apple has investigated taking those designs a step further, too. In a patent application published in August called “unitary housing for electronic device,” the company described a way to build devices with their electronics encased in two pieces that are sealed with “one or more ultrasonic welds.” The fully enclosed housing can be hermetically sealed, the company said.

“Even in the more eloquently designed electronic devices, outer housings are still typically formed from multiple parts, which tends to result in at least seams or other discontinuities, if not exposed screws, tabs or other component fasteners,” Apple said in its application. “While many designs and techniques used to provide outer housings for electronic devices and components have generally worked well in the past, there is always a desire to provide alternative housing designs and techniques for new and aesthetically pleasing devices.”

Sleek obsession

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Apple’s designs, under Jobs, led to a series of hits including the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.


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Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously micromanaged the look of the company’s products, in and out. He obsessed over the smallest dot on the screen and the angle of the curves on its devices. The night before the first iPod music player was introduced in 2001, Jobs demanded engineers tear apart and remake the device to make that satisfying click-feeling you get when you plug in a cord.

“The back of this thing looks better than the front of the other guys,” Jobs quipped as he showed off the company’s first iMac computer in 1998.

While that obsession with design has won Apple praise and loyal fans, it’s also attracted criticism. As the company’s Mac computers have gotten sleeker, easily removable or replaceable parts like the battery, memory and storage drives became largely inaccessible to people without technical skill.

In 2010, when Apple introduced the iPhone 4, Jobs focused on the device’s stainless steel sides that doubled as cellular and Wi-Fi antennas. After its release, users quickly learned that holding the phone a certain way scrambled the device’s reception.

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Apple’s “butterfly” keyboards were largely criticized by reviewers.


iFixit

In 2015, the company introduced a new “butterfly” keyboard for its laptops, which was 40% thinner than previous technologies while potentially offering better accuracy. The design became hated among reviewers as user complaints poured in about failing and mistyped keys. 

“Perhaps the kindest thing we can say about the Apple MacBook butterfly keyboard is, ‘Thank you for your service,'” CNET’s computer reviewer Dan Ackerman wrote after the company finally ditched the technology starting last year. “So long and good riddance.”

Whether Apple’s newest devices use its seam-removing process is yet to be seen. The company’s filed for similar patents in 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. Each time, the it’s given more of a window into how it could use the technology. In 2015, it was for a process to house an “operational component” (think more compactly squeezing parts into a MacBook or iPhone). In 2016, it was for using these techniques in a laptop. Now, it’s for a broadly described “electronic device.”

Apple’s also filed patents for “ultrasonic welding” techniques, indicating they could be used to join metal and plastic parts inside an iPad or iPhone. They could also create a laptop with “no apparent seams or other artifacts of manufacture on its outer surface,” Apple’s said.

Most people expect to see seams, screws and hinges since they’ve been visible on products for decades. To designers, those “artifacts” aren’t so much a part of the design they created.

“When you look at a hinge you think, ‘I get how that opens and closes.’ But the more they make it just disappear, you get this magical mystery of ‘How’s it doing that?'” said Francois Nguyen, head of industrial design at consultancy Frog’s North American studio.

Apple loved that manilla-envelope MacBook Air reveal so much it was featured in the device’s ads too.


Apple

That kind of “ooh” and “ahh” doesn’t happen much in the tech industry, but Apple under Jobs made it happen several times. He showed off the first MacBook Air in 2008 by hiding it in an interoffice envelope to show how thin it was. He pulled the first iPod Nano music player out of the small fifth pocket in his jeans in 2005. He showed off that first iMac’s colorful translucent case in 1998 by turning down the stage lights while it sat on a bright pedestal.

“All those little moments and details that Apple focuses on really sets them apart from all these other tried and true processes that everyone else has at their disposal,” Nguyen said.

There’s only so much you can do to reinvent a sheet of glass on a metal body. Still, Nguyen — who led design for the original “Beats by Dre” headphones, whose namesake company Apple bought for about $3.2 billion in 2014 — said he expects new technologies, like additional and more advanced cameras, will continue to force design, ergonomic and other changes as Apple adjusts its devices to accommodate them.

“The technology could still be the size of a needle, you still have to hold this thing,” he said.

Steps forward and back

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren took a hard position against tech companies during her presidential campaign last year.


Angela Lang/CNET

Apple appears to at least understand that form over function is something the world is increasingly pay attention to.

When a member of the New York Times editorial board asked Apple for comment last year on upcoming legislation from Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushing for national right to repair laws, it set off a flurry of emails within Apple’s PR team. 

“We’re still not clear on our seemingly evolving position,” Lori Lodes, a former director of corporate communications, said in one message. 

“Right now we’re talking out of both sides of our mouth and no one is clear on where we’re headed,” added Kristin Huguet, head of corporate communications. 

The messages, published by the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on antitrust as part of an investigation of Apple and other tech giants, were among the first times Apple’s internal struggles between form and function were made public.

So far, Apple has focused its efforts on expanding the servicing programs it has in place within its stores and through repair shops it certifies. Last year, the company began offering independent repair shops the same “genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics” that its authorized service providers have access to. In July, the company said it’s working with more than 700 businesses across the US, including uBreakiFix.

“When a customer needs a repair, we want them to have a range of options that not only suits their needs but also guarantees safety and quality so their iPhone can be used for as long as possible,” Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer, said in a July statement.

That’s why, come Apple’s event on Oct. 13, some people will be eyeing the bottom of the new iPhone to see whether the two screws typically used to start opening the phone are still there, as well as any other indications of how more tightly sealed the device is.

“Sadly, it’s part of the evolution of technology,” said Carolina Milanese, an analyst at market research firm Creative Strategies. The challenge, she said, is that whatever changes Apple makes will need to strike that right compromise between new design, features, and making sure the experience is worth it. Because after all, these phones will likely be used by hundreds of millions of people, all of whom will carry it around with them every day.

“Even if change is better, people just don’t like change — especially when it’s with something you’re dependent on,” she said. “I’m glad it’s not my job.”

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PS5 box lets you know how to transfer data from your PS4, is huge – Eurogamer.net

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With the next generation of consoles under a month away, the various products set to be sold are popping up across the world.

Last night various members of the US media revealed they had a PlayStation 5 in tow, showing off the box it comes in.

The PS5 box is as huge as you’d expect of something that needs to fit Sony’s gargantuan console inside.

PS5 box next to PS4 box from r/PS5

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In case you were wondering, here’s a PS5 box compared to a banana:

PS5 box. Banana for scale from r/PS5

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One interesting tidbit is it has instructions for transferring data from a PlayStation 4 to a PS5, right on the box.

As revealed by Polygon’s Samit Sarkar on Twitter, the bottom of the PS5 box includes a guide for transferring data from current-gen to next-gen. Three options are mentioned: hook both your PS4 and your PS5 to your network; hook up your external storage to your PS5 if you’ve got one; or sign in to PlayStation Network on PS5 to transfer “gaming history and trophies as well as profile and friend information”.

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Transferring data and games from PS4 to PS5 has become something of a talking point. Will you be able to transfer Hideo Kojima’s horror demo P.T. from your PS4 to a PS5? It’s something we discuss in the latest Eurogamer next-gen news cast, below.

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Meanwhile, all the PS5 accessories have been spotted at various stages of the distribution chain. Here’s the DualSense controller (which has also been unboxed by various outlets):

Had one in hand, darn sale not allowed.. haha. I just want to feel from r/PS5

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Here’s the PS5 media remote, which was recently detailed by Sony:

PS5 media remote from r/PS5

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And here is the Pulse 3D Wireless Headset sat next to a PS5 HD Camera:

First box-shots of Pulse 3D and PS5 HD Camera in the wild from r/PS5

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It’s all happening, then! Oh, and while we’re on video game boxes, it looks like a Colombian retailer has jumped the gun and unboxed an Xbox Series X. Now of course the Xbox Series X has been in the hands of press for some time now (here are our impressions), but this is the first time we’ve seen an unboxing from a shop.

Store in my country selling the Series X already from r/XboxSeriesX

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No new cases of COVID-19 reported by health unit – Brantford Expositor

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No new confirmed cases of COVID-19 are being reported by the Brant County Health Unit for the second consecutive day.

The number of active cases, those that considered infectious, dropped on Friday to 16, a decrease of three from the day before.

No one with an active case of the virus is in hospital.

There have been 225 lab-confirmed cases in Brantford-Brant since the pandemic began, with 204 of them considered resolved.

There are five local deaths associated with the virus.

An outbreak declared on Oct. 15 at Hardy Terrace Long-term Care Home in Mount Pleasant, where one staff member tested positive for the coronavirus continues.

Of the confirmed local cases, 175 people are from Brantford and 50 from Brant County.

In the majority of cases (54 per cent), the virus was contracted through close contact with an infected person, followed by 22 per cent contracted through community spread. Fourteen per cent of cases are associated with an outbreak and 10 per cent through travel. The means of transmission in 0.4 per cent of cases is pending.

Those between the ages of 20 and 39 account for 39 per cent of cases, followed by 31 per cent aged 40 to 59, 15 per cent aged 60 to 79, 11 per cent under age 20 and four per cent aged 80 and over.

There had been 31,993 COVID-19 tests conducted as of Friday morning at the Brant Community Healthcare System’s assessment centre.

The latest posted numbers from Six Nations of the Grand River indicate there are 26 active cases of COVID-19 on the territory. The total number of confirmed Six Nations cases is 74 since the start of the the pandemic, with 48 of them considered resolved. One Six Nations resident has died of COVID-19.

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Travis Scott, PlayStation Partner for Creative Collaboration – Variety

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Travis Scott and PlayStation have announced a creative collaboration ahead of the PlayStation 5’s launch.

“I’m super thankful and excited to be able to bring my strategic and creative vision to the rollout of such an iconic product,” Scott said in a statement. “I’ve always been a fan of PlayStation and the brand they’ve built, and this is another example of finding a partner who believes in and trusts Cactus Jack to execute for their brand. This is just the beginning of an incredible partnership.”

In a video shared to Instagram, the rapper — whose alter-ego and business entity go by the moniker Cactus Jack — can be seen promoting the video game console. Part of the multi-tiered deal include collaboration on a variety of currently unannounced initiatives spearheaded by PlayStation.

The alliance is just the latest in a line of creative projects Scott has taken part in this year. His 2020 projects alone include an animated concert in the “Fortnite” video games and a collaboration with McDonald’s. Both went on to stir the industry and set records: 12.3 million players tuned into his concert and many McDonald’s locations experienced shortages of Travis Scott meal ingredients due to high demand.

“Travis is an amazing creator, and we strive to work with the best creative minds inside and outside of our industry to continue to surprise the world in a way that only PlayStation can,” the company’s senior vice president, Eric Lempel, said.

The PlayStation 5 will be released on Nov. 12.

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